Luke tells us that one day when Jesus had just finished a time of prayer, one of his disciples approached him and asked if he would teach them how to pray. That’s what John the Baptist did for his disciples (Luke 11:1-4). I’ve always pictured John the Baptist as one who did what his name tells us, he baptized. He was the forerunner of the Messiah whose mission was to call the nation to repentance and upon confession to baptize them in the Jordan river. He certainly did that but, as the text says, he also taught his followers how to pray. The two go together. Effective ministry requires a continuing contact with the source of all power
Recently Jesus had spent time in the home of Mary and Martha. It seems that he was taking a break for some time to relax with dear friends (Luke 10:38-42). Now that he was back on the road it was important for him to stay in contact with his Father. On this particular day his disciples noted that Jesus was as usual taking time to pray. After he finished they came to him and asked that he teach them how to pray. What follows is normally called “The Lord’s Prayer” but should probably be called “The Disciples’ Prayer.” It was how they were to pray.
Prayer paid an essential role in the life of Jesus. As we read through the gospels we become aware of how often he drew aside to pray. Mark 1:35 records how, after a busy day, Jesus arose early in the morning and went out to a solitary place to pray. Luke tells us that Jesus often "withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (5:16). A bit later he writes that Jesus went out to a mountainside and "spent the night praying to God" (6:12). And then in Gethsemane he withdrew from his disciples to pray" (Matt 26:36).
The point I want to stress is that it was by what he did that Jesus taught his followers the necessity of talking to the Father and listening to what he had to say. Action is a powerful tool in moral instruction. What Jesus did was what they were to do. Had he not prayed, they probably would not have been moved to ask him to teach them. The lesson is that what we do is a major factor in teaching those influenced by us what they ought to do and how they ought to do it. The powerful influence of action is reflected in the statement, “What you do speaks so loud, I can’t hear what you say.” May it be true that, like Jesus, we will live the kind of life that will encourage others to say to us, “Teach me how to be like you
THE HELPING HAND
Jesus had just fed the crowd of 5,000, so when evening came he sent his disciples across the lake while he went up on the hillside to pray. A fierce storm arose on the lake but suddenly, there was Jesus! walking on top of the waves as he approached his disciples. They were absolutely terrified. But when Peter recognized that the one they all thought was a “ghost” was actually Jesus, he asked to go to him. All went well until Peter noticed how high the waves were. Then, as he began to sink, he panicked and cried out for help. I imagine that you or I might have hesitated for just a moment to teach Peter a lesson in trust, but Jesus “Instantly reached out his hand and took hold of him” (Mark 14:31).
Jesus is teaching us a very simple lesson: When another person is in trouble, reach out your hand, and do it right away. As we work our way through the gospel account of the earthly life of God’s son we find that the most distinctive quality of his ministry was helping the other person. It didn’t matter whether that person was blind or lame, was a demented tomb dweller, a mother whose son had just died, or a host who had run out of wine. Jesus was always on duty. He lived for the benefit of others and at the end of it all he died and rose again for our eternal benefit. Is there any question as to how we are to live? Jesus is our mentor par excellence.
If that kind of life seems a bit dull to you may I tell you a secret? Serving the needs of another can be the most joyful and rewarding experience of a person’s life. Do you remember when Paul spoke of a man who was “caught up to the third heaven” and then described his experience ? (2 Corinthians 12:2). In the same way, I know a man who for the last several years of his wife’s life had the privilege of taking care of her, as they say, 24/7. He got to sleep on the floor near her bedroom in case she awoke, cooked her favorite meals and then washed the dishes, pushed her around the neighborhood in a wheelchair, and read 28 books aloud to her as she lay in bed taking it all in. Her final words were a whispered, “I love you ______.” To serve her needs at the close of 60 years of wonderful marriage was the greatest privilege and joy of this man’s entire life. Heaven itself!
Concern that leads to action is what Jesus taught and demonstrated in his life. And we are his followers, that is, we live to the best of our ability in exactly the way that he lived.